How Analytics Can Get You Better Medical Treatment

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We talk a lot at MIT SMR about the smart ways company leaders are sorting through avalanches of data to make better decisions. (Links to our most current articles on The New Intelligent Enterprise are here.)

In the world of medicine, analytics has a special kind of urgency. Technology gives doctors huge amounts of information about possible diagnosis, all of which they have to wade through and interpret. As patients, we hope they pick the right data to focus on (and as customers with co-pays, we hope they do it in a way that’s cost efficient).

Two recent conversations, by Thomas Goetz and Atul Gawande, get at how that hope we have as patients and bill payers could be better managed in the medical field through analytics.

Thomas Goetz, executive editor of Wired and author of “The Decision Tree: Taking Control of Your Health in the New Era of Personalized Medicine” (Rodale Books, 2010), spoke at the TEDMED 2010 conference last October on the topic “It’s time to redesign medical data.”

His thesis is that if you give people specific, detailed information about their health, they can start to see a vision of a path forward and the change in behavior it will take to get there. Seeing ends up being prescriptive.

The best way to give people specific information and get them on a path, Goetz says, is to make the information simple to understand. For instance:

“Blood test results are this great source of information. They’re packed with information. They’re just not for us. They’re not for people; they’re not for patients. They go right to doctors.

. . . What we did at Wired was we went, and I got our graphic design department to re-imagine these lab reports. So that’s what I want to walk you through. So this is the general blood work before, and this is the after, this is what we came up with. The after takes what was four pages — that previous slide was actually the first of four pages of data that’s just the general blood work. It goes on and on and on, all these values, all these numbers you don’t know. This is our one-page summary. We use the notion of color. It’s an amazing notion that color could be used.


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Comment (1)
Bryant Avey
Great Post, Leslie. You did a fantastic job pulling together and integrating the material into an informative presentation.

Business Analytics is starting to take hold and it's a good place to be.